Last summer the Departments of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and Biology co-sponsored a six-week study abroad program in Cuzco, Peru. The 16 students who participated in the inaugural offering of the program took two courses taught by UF faculty: “Spanish Service Learning” (SPN 3948 – Dr. Greg Moreland, of SPS) and “Emerging Disease in the Americas” (ZOO 4956 – Dr. Tom Hladish, of Biology). A key element of the student experience was their weekly volunteer work performed in service placements located throughout the medical community in Cuzco. These experiential learning opportunities allowed students to increase their Spanish proficiency, explore Peruvian culture, better understand health-related systems, and make meaningful connections within the community. Homestays with welcoming Peruvian families provided further exposure to local customs.
Student Reflection: Brittany Fischer
“I know myself better and view others with an open, optimistic mind.”
Studying abroad with UF-in-Cuzco was a life-changing experience [… ] When I recall the splendor of the Andes at Machu Picchu and the floating islands on Lake Titicaca, where the s unique agrarian lifestyles are still preserved, I am reminded that there is so much beauty in the world, both in nature and people. As a result of my experiences abroad, I am more culturally aware, curious, flexible, and eager to travel the world. I have made Peruvian and American friends, fallen in love with fluffy alpacas and improved my Spanish-speaking abilities. By putting myself in challenging situations and embracing my role as a service learner, I know myself better and view other cultures with an open, optimistic mind. Through my volunteering at the dental clinic Centro de Calidad Grupo Yamez, I learned first-hand how health care and culture interact and was able to develop my interpersonal skills by working directly with patients. This will help me when communicating with Spanish-speaking patients in my future as a dentist as I strive to reduce barriers to care. I have learned that although we might differ in terms of appearance or culture, we can embrace and respect our differences.
UF in Cuzco also featured a wide array of activities and excursions. The faculty directors and the 16 students enjoyed welcome and farewell dinner parties, visits to local cultural sites, classes dedicated to Peruvian cuisine and the Quechua language, and phenomenal weekend trips to Puno and Lake Titicaca, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. Student evaluations of the program were overwhelmingly positive, and the catch phrase “blown away” became somewhat of a mantra during their six weeks there. Students and faculty alike were fascinated by all that they experienced during their time in Peru. The program achieved the desired balance of academic rigor, cultural appreciation and good plain fun.
Both departments are already looking forward to UF in Cuzco 2017!